Raver Revolution 

Before West Coast dance music "tribes" get political, they'd better clean their toilets.

It's 3 a.m. on a Sunday, and we're braving a switchback-riddled dirt road on an Indian reservation somewhere northeast of Bakersfield. There's a cliff on one side, a mountain on the other, three friends in the passenger seats, camping gear in the trunk, a hula hoop strapped to the bike rack on top, and a full moon overhead. In spite of the four hours we've put in since we left Los Angeles, an indeterminate distance of rock and dirt stretches between us and the Moontribe Tenth Anniversary Full Moon Gathering, which our directions indicate is happening at the end of the road.

In other words, it's another more or less normal night in hot pursuit of beats in the underworld.


Due to problems with land access, law enforcement authorities, and vibe-killing ravers who don't respect the organization's leave-no-trace ethos, directions to Moontribe are a tightly guarded secret within the cyberhippie community. Like Burning Man and other cyberhippie events that represent the confluence of technology, music, art, and neurochemical experiments in human consciousness, Moontribe events tend to be purposely isolated. In fact, one member of the tribe is responsible for finding ever more hidden gathering locations, and spends his free time driving up and down dirt roads in the high desert and mountains between Los Angeles and San Francisco, searching for bust-free spots.

"When you're trying to find Moontribe, you go as far as you think the middle of nowhere is, and then you go a little bit farther," says Nicole, one of my traveling companions, who has attended dozens of Full Moon Gatherings up and down the Pacific coast during the past six years.

When we do finally reach the party twenty minutes later, an elfin cyberhippie clad in earth-toned tech wear stops us on the dirt road, welcomes us, warns us not to set foot in a sacred tribal area that abuts the gathering, and lectures us for five minutes on proper party, camping, and trash- disposal etiquette. In the distance, the sound system beckons with thumping tribal techno spun by Moontribe founder Daniel. Finally, our lecturer waves us on and we're treated to a river crossing before we scramble to set up our tents and get our swerve on before the sun rises.

When we make it to the clearing in the forest where the sound system is set up, a scrim of dust rises from the dance area beneath the canopy of conifers overhead that makes the dancers seem like they're swimming in a brown sea, and leaves a thick coating of muck on the speaker cabinets and the hundreds of people who've been partying since Friday.

In spite of the tightly guarded directions, word about this party clearly got out, because in addition to the standard cast of cyberhippies clad in Eastern-inflected garb, there are loads of primarily male ravers stumbling about tweaked out of their gourds. There are a few old-school Moontribers in their late thirties to mid-forties in the house as well, some holding babies that giggle and bounce to the beats.

At the portable toilets we discover trash on the floors, urine and TP covering the toilet seats, and graffiti scrawled on the walls. While this is a common occurrence elsewhere, every person who entered this party received the same instructions to respect the land, the other partygoers and, presumably, the toilets. It's not just that you expect better behavior at Moontribe -- it's more or less demanded.

But outside, the river runs through the middle of the camping area, passing hundreds of cars and tents before it curls past the DJ booth, where a Brazilian DJ based in Los Angeles is spinning psy trance. It takes something more powerful than simply an outdoor dance party to bring together this many people this far from civilization -- it takes vibe, and vibe is here in abundance. But if a powerful positive vibe is created when hundreds of people gather around a sound system in the middle of a forest or on a dry lakebed in the high desert, is it possible for the power of these temporarily autonomous leisure zones to be channeled back into real life? More importantly, if partyers can't figure out how to pee in a toilet, pick up their own trash, or otherwise respect their peers, can they realistically be expected to organize and take action as a unified political force once the music stops?



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